The Quakes held on to beat the 66ers 7-6 on Wednesday night at the Epicenter, extending their lead for the South Division’s final playoff spot to two games over the Sixers with 11 games remaining.
The Quakes barely held on to early 5-0 and 6-1 leads, because the offense pretty much shut down after scoring six runs in the first two innings and sending 16 batters to the plate. In the final six innings, the Quakes had one hit, two walks, and scored one unearned run. With the bases loaded and one out iun the second inning and a chance to knock Sixers starter Tim Sexton from the game, Jeremy Moore and Clay Fuller took called third strikes.
How did the Sixers get back in it? Steve Caseres crushed two home runs, a two-run shot and a three-run shot. But they had some head scratching moments too.
1) They made four errors, including two by normally sure-handed shortstop Justin Fuller, leading to four unearned runs.
2) In the second inning with Quakes starter Mike Kenney having already walked three batters in the inning, including two back-to-back, Christian Lara swung at the first pitch he saw. He ended up striking out. It was eerily similar in the fourth, when Kenney had walked two, including the previous batter, but Lara swung again at the first pitch and eventually struck out. He was pinch hit for in his next scheduled plate appearance.
3) Then came the baserunning gaffe to end the game. With one out in the ninth, Andres Perez walked, bringing up Preston Mattingly, with two-homer Steven Caseres on deck. Mattingly hit a deep, but routine fly ball to center fielder P.J. Phillips. Perez inexplicably not only tagged up, but tried to go to second only to be thrown out, and Caseres never got a chance.
There are signs both managers are managing differently: to win rather than to develop.
1) After Christian Lara looked bad in back-to-back at-bats, manager Carlos Subero had Johan Garcia pinch-hit for him. It was only the seventh pinch-hit at-bat by the Sixers all year, in 129 games.
2) Instead of going with embattled closer Ismael Carmona (0-8, 6.21 ERA, 6 blown saves in 26 chances) to close out the game in the ninth, Quakes manager Keith Johnson went with the much more effective Michael Kohn. Kohn lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.07 with a shutout ninth, but earned only his second save in three chances.
Managers are managing to win, we’ll see if players play to win. It will be an interesting final 11 games regardless.